Dirty Money

By on Nov 18, 2013 in Fiction, Humor

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Dirty money

She felt heat rising up her neck. The reality of this place, its shabby, garish decorations and meagre underpinnings worked like an efficient time machine. Wyndy had grown up in a small, mean, dilapidated house three streets over. She didn’t appreciate being reminded.

Her parents’ heady cocktail of flamboyance, naivete and bad judgment had kept the family teetering on the edge of financial ruin and a perennial topic of local gossip. Of her four siblings now, one was on probation from a fraud conviction, one had huge credit-card debts, one had too many children from too many men, and one just never got off the couch of her parents’ house. 

Wyndy was The Normal One. The one who maintained a real job and a clean apartment. The one who paid her bills every month. The one who got her nails manicured, her eyebrows waxed and her hair highlighted. The one who had to live down the legacy of all the others and prove herself stable and trustworthy. The one who rarely saw her family.

She was about to back-up in the neighbor’s driveway when she looked in the mirror and saw Mrs. Cormer walking down the middle of the street toward her. Wyndy waited, not knowing what to do.

“Can I help you?” Mrs. Cormer said, coming up to the window.

“No. I, uh, turned down the wrong street.”

“I know you. You work at… at the thrift store?” she guessed. “No, that’s not it. I know. The bank.” 

She’s doesn’t seem senile. Wyndy smiled and said, “Yes. Hello.”

“So you got lost? Here?”

“Daydreaming, I guess.” Wyndy shrugged.

“Ahh, I do a lot of that, too. Come in. Have some tea.”

“Oh, I couldn’t.”

“Don’t be silly. Of course you could.”

Wyndy knew she should politely refuse, but she didn’t.

“Come on. Pull in here behind my car.” Mrs. Cormer marched briskly ahead of her, up the steps and into the house, leaving the door open.

When Wyndy entered, Mrs. Cormer was at the sink filling the kettle. The late afternoon sun shone through the small, kitchen window throwing a bright streak across the center of the room. 

“I like peppermint tea. Invigorating and soothing at the same time. Would you rather have regular?”

“Either is fine, Mrs. Cormer.”

The woman’s head jerked toward Wyndy. The stream of water missed the kettle as she stared. Finally, she shut it off and said, “You have a good memory. I don’t remember your name.”

“Wyndy Elkins. Wyndy with two y’s.”

“Oh yes, I remember seeing your name tag. Two y’s. Two y’s don’t make a wong?” She laughed heartily at her bad joke as she motioned for Wyndy to take a chair at the table.

The narrow room provided living, dining and kitchen space all in one. Organized clutter, thought Wyndy. Still… it’s clean. Wyndy sat in one of the two kitchen chairs. A worn, floral cloth covered the small table. The chair wobbled. “I should explain,” she said.

“Okay, but let me get the tea, and please, call me Clare. Clare with no i!” Wyndy smiled, but her heart continued to pound. Clare prattled on about having no i in her last name either. “Everyone always wants me to be Claire Cormier! But there’s no i in me.” 

Wyndy laughed and thought about trying to relax.

After Clare brought the tea and put a plate of chocolate squares between them, she sat down and said, “Okay. Let’s have the truth, young lady.” 

Wyndy took a deep breath and said, “I suspect you’re the one who’s giving away money.”

Clare stared at her over her cup. She blew on the tea, ruffling the surface. Finally, she said, “If I were, what business of yours would it be?” 

The burgeoning good vibe between them vanished. “Uh, none. None at all. I just got worried about you.”

“You want money?” Clare asked. Wyndy’s mouth dropped open. “How much? Is this a shake-down?”

“Oh my God. No. I’m just nosey, I guess. I don’t want your money.”

A grunt escaped from the woman’s throat. Clare put the cup down and picked up a square. She held it between thumb and index finger, but didn’t bite. A silence extended between them. 

“Have one,” Clare said, but the words caught in her throat. She let the cake drop to her plate, put her head in her hands, and started to sob.

“Oh no! I’m so sorry, Mrs. Cormer. Please stop.” 

“I haven’t admitted anything!” Clare’s voice was muffled. “You can’t say I have.”

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Nancy S.M. Waldman grew up in Texas but has been moving northward ever since. She now lives on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in Atlantic Canada. A former R.N. and artist, she writes mainstream and speculative fiction full-time, except when she's maintaining her various web sites, traveling to visit her far-flung family, or hanging out with her husband on the porch of their vividly-painted old house in the woods. She is one of the founders of Third Person Press, an independent publishing venture that nurtures and promotes regional speculative fiction. Nancy's short fiction has been published in The Men's Breakfast from Breton Books, The Nashwaak Review, and in three anthologies — Undercurrents, Airborne and Unearthed. Find out more at: http://nancysmwaldman.com.


  1. This charming tale has all the qualities of an interesting read: light-hearted, mysterious, witty and humorous. Clare Cormer captured my attention from the moment she stood in line at the bank – and more so, when she tapped into Wyndy’s curiosity. Clare knew how to manipulate people into thinking what she wanted them to. All in all, I was thoroughly entertained by the author’s creation – great job Nancy Waldman.

  2. :D I loved Dirty Money !! I dislike dirty money.